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06/09/2020

Danone sets out to discover unfound nutrients in its soy

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Starting with its soy supply, Danone North America is using an artificial intelligence-powered platform to search for undiscovered nutrients and health benefits in its edible plant sources that it can roll into its products, including private brands for retailers.

The company is in the plant-based space with its brands Silk and So Delicious Dairy Free, and as a partner with retailers on private brands. Now, through a multi-phase partnership with biosciences company Brightseed, which has developed an AI-powered platform that maps novel plant nutrients toward human health, and profiles key plant sources, Danone is looking to make breakthrough discoveries around its plant-based ingredients — starting with soy.

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A spokesperson for Danone told Store Brands that the first phase of the partnership is “focused on identifying breakthrough discoveries about soy and its unknown health benefits with clinical evidence to support any new claims. The application of these discoveries across Danone’s soy supply and operations will be part of this multi-phased effort which include the retailer’s private label brands. Depending on the discoveries made through this partnership, we will decide whether we use them in current products.” 

As an example, the soybean is already known as a rich source of high-quality protein among plant-based products, but the partnership with Brightseed aims to identify potential new molecular connections between certain compounds present in Danone’s raw soy and newfound health benefits previously unlinked to soy. Brightseed’s insights will highlight certain health benefits that may exist in the source of soy and enable Danone North America to accelerate nutrition innovation across their family of brands.

“Brightseed’s artificial intelligence technology gives us deep insight into the plant kingdom, finds nutrients that we know are important for promoting health, and accelerates the validation of these findings,” said Takoua Debeche, senior vice president, research and innovation at Danone North America. “As a leader in plant-based food and beverages, Danone North America values external partnerships that can help us improve and optimize the taste, texture and nutritional aspects of our products, and contribute to our biodiversity vision.”

Plant-based foods have been thriving as of late. The Good Food Institute launched its first report on the category, identifying nearly 700 new plant-based products launched just last year and discussed the retailers at the forefront of the movement. With meat sources in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic, alternative sources like plant-based meats have spiked in sales. Nielsen has reported year-over-year sales increases in the category over 250% during the months.

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“At Brightseed we believe that we’re at the tipping point of significantly activating food for health and wellness. We analyze plants at the molecular level in order to understand the specific roles that nutrients play in the proper functioning of our bodies,” said Sofia Elizondo, co-founder and COO of Brightseed. 

The San Francisco-based company is indexing the world’s edible plants and their phytonutrients — the small molecules produced by plants that can positively impact the optimal functioning of the human body. Less than 1% of existing phytonutrients have been identified or studied, despite their prevalence in diets and traditional usage worldwide, according to Brightseed. The AI-based platform then maps phytonutrients to specific human health targets, and the Brightseed team validates new findings with biological and clinical trials.